As Israel was scattered amongst the nations the ancient Hebrew language almost disappeared. So today most of the world, including the church, attaches little significance to what they assume to be a dead language. But they are wrong! Prophecy says that Hebrew will once more come to prominence at the end of the age and especially in the age to come. Would you believe that it will become a language of the Middle East?
Moreover, the often neglected Hebrew Calendar with the associated Hebrew Feasts has an important coded message for all mankind (Jew and Gentile), if only we will study it!
Ancient and Modern Hebrew
Biblical (or Ancient) Hebrew is the archaic form of the Hebrew language. It is a Canaanite Semitic language spoken by the Israelites in Canaan, and the earliest Hebrew writing discovered dates to around 1,000 BC, link. Most of the text in the Dead Sea Scrolls (probably written between 300 BC and 100 AD) is written in ancient Hebrew. But as the Jews were scattered amongst the nations, spoken Hebrew gradually became confined to the reading of the Torah in the synagogues (in Jesus’ day, Hebrew was the language of liturgy in the Temple).
So why all the interest in Biblical Hebrew today? Clearly, from an academic viewpoint, a knowledge of the original text can enrich a modern translation. Another reason is that Hebrew is one of the official languages of Israel (see below). A third reason for studying Hebrew is found in Bible prophecy, which says that this ancient Canaanite language will soon be a common language in the Middle East, and especially in the millennial age to come! Yes – God is reviving this ancient language as we approach the end of this age:
In that day five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan
For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they may call on the name of the LORD (Zeph 3.9)
Just as the Ancient Greek of the New Testament differs from Modern Greek, so Biblical Hebrew differs noticeably from Modern (secular) Hebrew, the national language spoken in modern-day Israel. The differences are mainly in the areas of grammar, phonology, and vocabulary. The pronunciation of some of the consonants and vowels have changed over the centuries, but this does not affect the meaning of words and so speakers of Modern Hebrew can typically read an ancient text without difficulty, link.
The Hebrew Language: Official Language of Israel
Up to July 2018, tourist information said that Hebrew and Arabic were the official languages of the State of Israel. But there were political moves to remove Arabic from the list of official languages, link. It was argued that, whilst Arabic has a defined legal status in certain cases, it no longer had the status of an official language. It was argued that countries having more than one official language are dual or multi-national countries, which Israel is not. Proponents of this view pointed out that Israel declared the establishment of a Jewish State in 1948.
This view became law in July 2018 when the Knesset passed a new Basic Law – the controversial ‘nation state’ Law. As from that date, Hebrew alone became the state language, with Arabic having a ‘special status’, link.
Today, Hebrew is spoken by some 90% of those who who arrived before 1989, link, link. This is quite remarkable since there is no other example in world history of an ancient language being revived as the spoken language of a modern nation. The restoration of Biblical Hebrew to a modern day spoken language is a unique historical phenomenon, link. Like the restoration of Israel into their Promised Land, the restoration of Biblical Hebrew is yet another sign of the God of Israel blessing His people.
The English word “Alphabet” is derived from the first two letters of the Greek Alphabet; Alpha and Beta. The corresponding term in Hebrew is “Alephbet”, this being derived from the first two letters of the Hebrew Alephbet; Aleph and Bet.
Figure 1 shows this Ancient Hebrew alphabet. It has 22 consonants and no vowels (the vowels are dots and dashes added above and below the consonants). The letters are in alphabetical order, written from right to left. Alef is the first letter of the Alephbet and Tav is the last.
Click on the image below to learn the Hebrew Alephbet. Listen to letter pronunciation and how to pronounce simple sentences.
The video below teaches the Alephbet in just 20 lessons, and it’s FREE:
So it is important for Christians to understand their Jewish heritage!
Hebrew for Christians
Hebrew for Christians aims to remind the Christian Church of her rich Hebraic heritage. Here you’ll find basic information about the Hebrew alphabet, vowels, and Biblical Hebrew grammar so that you can better understand the Scriptures from a Hebraic point of view.
Learn about the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh. Learn about the Hebrew names of God, and about the importance of a name – how it should identify with a person’s life (‘Yeshua’ is a good example, Acts 4.12). Learn about how we should regularly bless the Lord, as shown in the Hebrew Blessings or Berachot. Learn about the Jewish calendar and the Jewish holidays and feasts, some of which go into the millennium.
Learn Biblical Hebrew Online
Learn from the convenience of your own home. This is the first accredited online Biblical Hebrew course offered by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A Mystery: the Coded Message in the Hebrew Bible
There is an intriguing message hidden in the Hebrew scriptures. The message is fundamental to life and applies to Jew and Gentile alike. It is also missed by most Christians.
Consider the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh). It comprises 24 books divided amongst three sections: the 5 books of Moses (Torah), the 8 prophetic books (Neviim) and the 11 books of writings (Kesuvim). The term ‘Tanakh’ is an acronym derived from the initial letters Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim. The Tanakh presents a history of the first 3500 years from creation until the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem (completed 349 BC).
Now for the mystery. It is the Tanakh which reveals God’s plan for the world, His relationship with mankind and how Israel is His chosen witness to the nations. The plan, God’s timeline for mankind, is to be found in the mandated Jewish feasts described in the book of Leviticus chapter 23. They are also in the Hebrew (Jewish) calendar.
The Coded Hebrew Calendar
The Tanakh, God’s word, commands Israel to keep seven major holy feasts through the year. Today, these feasts are found in the Hebrew calendar. In contrast to the Gregorian calendar, which is followed by most churches today, the Jewish calendar is essentially a lunar calendar with twelve lunar months, each month starting on the new moon. This means each month has 29 or 30 days, which sums to 354 days a year (29.5 x 12). Since this is short of a solar year, it is corrected by adding an extra month (AdarII) in leap years in order to ensure that the seasonal feasts keep to their correct season. So strictly speaking it is called a ‘lunar-solar’ calendar.
The seven mandated feasts are summarised in Fig.2. They foresee Christ’s deliverance of man from sin, the continuous battle with sin, the promise of resurrection, the promise of the Holy Spirit writing God’s Law on man’s heart, the resurrection of believers, the priesthood of Christ for all believers, the binding of Satan, the millennial age and final judgement and the dwelling of God with man on the New Earth. Amazing!
Fig.2: The Seven Feasts of the Jewish Calendar. Click to enlarge
The mandated Hebrew feasts embedded in the Hebrew calendar are prophetic and contain a coded message on mankind’s history and destiny. They symbolize man’s bondage to sin, the atoning work of Christ, the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the promise of eternal life, the resurrection of believers, the binding of Satan, the millennial age, the judgement, and the new heaven and new earth. Prophetically, the first four feasts concern the first coming of Christ and have been fulfilled, and the last three concern His Second Coming.
Another thought: is the Western Christian calendar misleading – even unbiblical? See The Christian Calendar